After a turbulent season as replete with failure as success — an extremely disappointing league position and a whimpering exit from the UEFA Cup compensated only by a euphoric Carling Cup win — one gets the feeling that Juande Ramos and his team are to take advantage of the long summer break to effect a heavy clearout of a squad that was by and large inherited from their predecessors.
Ramos has stated on numerous occasions that everybody is playing for their place, and that the attitude of the players will be taken into account, with the last six games of the season — for the most part, totally insignificant — an interesting mirror into which the pride and work ethic of the squad will be reflected.
The 4-1 home capitulation to Newcastle will have done little to help some players’ cause, and with Spurs having conceded more goals at home than any other team in the Premiership, wholesale changes can be expected in the goalkeeping and defensive departments. Meanwhile, a lifeless and uninventive midfield is in equal need of renovation, and I would expect at least ten players to move before pre-season begins. It will also be intriguing to see where signings are brought in from this summer: will Ramos’ presence be felt through the drafting in of a number of Spaniards and South Americans, or will Commoli continue to plunder the hordes of Ligue 1? Let the power struggle commence.
Here is a short analysis of each major player’s contribution to the 2007-08 season and an evaluation of their usefulness to the squad. A very brief range of possible replacements will be listed in brackets, with my preferred choices in bold. I would be interested to hear your suggestions.
Paul Robinson — Robbo’s season has been desperately poor both at club and international level, and despite his popularity amongst some sections of fans, he does not seem to rank high on Juande Ramos’ list. Expect Robinson to move on in the summer, possibly to Aston Villa. Not a second too soon in my books. (Kameni, César López, Jaaskelainen, Carson, Neuer)
Radek Cerny — Cerny has generally done well when called upon, and should have been handed his chance sooner. He will in all likelihood return to parent club Slavia Prague this summer.
Young-Pyo Lee — making around 30 appearances for us this season, Young-Pyo has been okay — defensive lapses on his part have decreased — without ever showing anything exceptional. With old club PSV apparently sniffing around, summer would be an excellent time to let allow Lee to depart. (Rafinha)
Pascal Chimbonda — after an impressive start to the season, Chimbonda has had an exceedingly disappointing campaign. Awful when played at left-back, lacking the attacking quality of last year and beaten in the air on numerous occasions, Chimbonda’s attitude problems have further irked Spurs supporters. I say, sell sell sell. (Rafinha)
Ledley King — despite the rumours that Ramos would like to dispense of King due to the injury burden, Ledley will undoubtedly remain with Spurs during the summer. His departure would certainly signal a mutiny at the Lane, and watching his excellent performance during the Carling Cup Final was a proud a moment as any for a lifelong Spurs fan. Pray that his fitness is better next time around, since he is crucial to the Spurs cause.
Younes Kaboul — Kaboul has had a very difficult first season at Spurs, and has been singled out for criticism after a number of embarrassing errors. My own opinion is that the slate should be wiped clean and the Frenchman given one more season to impress. Call it Titus Bramble syndrome, but Kaboul in my eyes has all of the tools necessary to succeed — height, speed, strength — and could do with playing alongside King for a number of games. (Cáceres, Amorebieta, Jarque, Campagnaro, and many others).
Benoit Assou-Ekotto — injury problems have restricted Assou-Ekotto to just 10 league appearances this season, and he has failed to make a mark in any of them. Get rid whilst we are making wholesale changes.
Michael Dawson — another who has had an awfully poor season, with an early-season loss of confidence seemingly scarring the rest of the campaign. Dawson with King looks confident and accomplished — without him, Dawson is panicky, error-prone and lacking in leadership. If we get a reasonable offer, I would not hesitate in letting Daws go, even though he seems like a top bloke. (see above)
Jonathan Woodgate — apparently one of Ramos’ five “untouchables”, Woodgate has been excellent ever since his January move to the Lane, and was absolutely immense in the Carling Cup Final. Has done enough to prove even the staunchest skeptics — myself included — wrong.
Gareth Bale — a season obliterated by injury, but with enough starring cameos to show that if he is kept fit, the Welsh full-back will be one of the best in the Premiership for years to come. Frightening left foot, superb set pieces, and best of all, a wicked and tenacious attitude far beyond his years.
Da Silva Gilberto — sluggish and disappointing in his limited appearances, I would not expect Gilberto to move on this summer, if only because he was only signed recently, and may profit from the time to settle in. Improvement is needed, however.
Chris Gunter — we have seen practically nothing of Gunter since the Welshman was signed, and I have a sneaking suspicion that he could be loaned out next season. What we have seen has not been conclusive either way.
Ricardo Rocha — bizarrely most of Spurs’ clean sheets have come when Rocha has been on the pitch. Rocha is slow and awkward on the ball, and not particularly great in the air either. Dump and let Dervite take his place.
Alan Hutton — with Woodgate, proof that business conducted during the January rush is not always doomed to failure. Hard in the tackle, athletic, with a hell of an engine, expect Hutton to be a favourite next season.
Didier Zokora — the less said about Zokora, the better. Has been nothing but a disappointment for me since he signed. Whilst the Ivorian is undoubtedly a decent player — he does get in tackles, and never stops running — he joins the likes of Tainio and Boateng in the elite group of mediocre midfielders who will take the club nowhere fast.
Perhaps the most frustrating sight in football is to watch Zokora rampage up the pitch, beat four players and then give the ball away time after time. Should also never be allowed to shoot again. (Albelda, Veloso)
Teemu Tainio — hard-working but frankly not good enough. Has been given some time to prove himself but does not make the cut. I also feel that the player himself deserves better — a starting berth at a slightly less ambitious club. (see above)
Kevin Prince Boateng — impetuous, lippy, unpolished, Boateng is essentially a carbon copy of Zokora. I’d sooner play O’Hara than him any day of the week. Sell sell sell. (see above)
Steed Malbranque — Malbranque has battled away at Spurs this season, playing for the most part out of position, stranded on the left wing. I feel that his level has dropped off somewhat as the season has come to a close, whereas the campaign started very well for Steed. Has done enough for me to earn a place in the squad, though I’m not sure I would want him to start every game. (Susaeta, Capel, Granero, Ben Arfa, Adam Johnson)
Jermaine Jenas — perennial frustration Jenas seemed to have shaken off his under-performing tag at the beginning of Ramos’ tenure, giving a series of invigorated and classy displays, culminating in a start for Capello’s first England game. Predictably, this fount of enthusiasm has dried up, and Jenas has become average once more. Next season must be last chance saloon for JJ. (Arteta, Diego — wishful thinking, I know)
Tom Huddlestone — for me, one of the few players to come out of the season with any credit. Huddlestone, for the most part, is composed and effective, finding the man most of the time and playing some delightful through balls. The Hudd has also chipped in seven assists and a few goals, which tend to be pearlers. The fulcrum of my new-look Spurs side.
Jamie O’ Hara — whether O’Hara will ever be more than a good squad player remains to be seen, but for his efforts and attitude alone he should be retained this summer. Also has a lovely left foot, and can take a reasonably good free-kick. Lovely to have another academy graduate in the squad.
Adel Taarabt — bucketfuls of talent, but where is the decision-making ability? I find it worrying just how little Taarabt has progressed this season, and can only wonder why he has been given so few outings in the first team to grow as a player. Hopefully he can play a little over the next 6 games so that we can see whether or not he has what it takes.
I wouldn’t get rid of little Adel, because we’d be kicking ourselves when he moved elsewhere and turned in stellar performance after stellar performance. But I expect more from him next season, and hope that he is given the opportunities to flourish.
Aaron Lennon — there are times when Lennon looks like a world-beater, or is the only player on the pitch who seems able to create opportunities (in that stagnant game against Derby, for example, Lennon was the one creative spark before Berbatov came on).
However, with just three goals from over forty games, and a measly four assists, Lennon clearly needs to work on his productivity, and the former Leeds man’s crossing has not improved noticeably since joining the club. Left out of Fabio Capello’s England squads, Lennon has work to do if he is to blossom into the very good player he has the potential to be.
Dimitar Berbatov — if we can keep Berba, we should. It’s as simple as that. Some work should be done to figure out why he always starts seasons slowly, and the extent of his commitment to the Spurs cause must also be ensured. Other than that, Berbatov has really grown into the season, and Spurs look a far superior side when the Bulgarian plays. If I am honest, Berbatov deserves better than Tottenham and I would not be overly surprised if he were to leave to go to Milan this summer.
Robbie Keane — Keano has had a really good season, yet again, with 22 goals to his name thus far, including a fair few crackers. Scoring goals has not been our problem this season, as everyone from Earth to Jupiter knows. Has also captained the side with pride.
Darren Bent — unless we get a sizeable offer or are able to target a world-class young striker (Huntelaar, Gómez), I see no reason to replace Bent as a substitute striker, especially since he offers a different option to the preferred front two of Berba and Keane.
Although he has not performed too well, Bent deserves another season to prove himself, and has scored 8 goals in 29 appearances, a record which is not awful for a turbulent and disappointing campaign. I also fail to see with whom Bent would be replaced – the likes of Kenwyne Jones have been mentioned, but Jones has no more experience than Bent does, and his goalscoring record is not even at the same level.
So…who do you think will be shipped out by Ramos? Who will be brought in to help Tottenham challenge for Champions League qualification? Let us know in the comments below.